October 01, 2012


 Slaughter plant briefly shut down on handling allegations

Federal authorities temporarily halted inspections at a California slaughterhouse where workers were accused of inhumanely handling cattle.

The Department of Agriculture removed its inspectors from the facility Aug. 19, leaving employees unable to slaughter animals for human consumption. A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service spokesman said Aug. 27 that the agency allowed the company to resume processing that morning, and the company plans to provide training on humane handling and implement safeguards to ensure that only ambulatory animals are processed.

FSIS officials had announced Aug. 21 that department teams were investigating and responding to “disturbing evidence of inhumane treatment” at Central Valley Meat in central California. That evidence was provided through video secretly recorded in June and July by an investigator with Compassion Over Killing, an animal advocacy organization.

Central Valley Meat did not respond to requests for additional information.

Rep. Jim Costa, whose district includes the facility, had urged the USDA to expedite its review process, while U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Jeff Denham, all of whom also represent California districts, sent Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter that urged him to send the inspection personnel needed to supervise the plant and allow hundreds of employees to resume operations.

The video shows what appears to be repeated attempts at captive bolt euthanasia as well as suffocation of one cow by a worker who stood on the animal’s nose and mouth, repeated electrical prodding of other animals, and movement by at least one ineffectively stunned cow while it was hoisted for slaughter.

The AVMA condemned the mishandling shown in the video and urged the USDA to determine whether its inspectors were providing adequate oversight. Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, said in an announcement that the video showed unacceptable and inhumane treatment of livestock, and he hopes the punishment for those responsible will serve as a reminder that such abuse will not be tolerated.